An Autumn Extravaganza: Halloween at Butler’s Orchard

Photo: Child walking through a tunnel framed by a jack-o-lantern. Text: "An Autumn Extravaganza: Halloween at Butler's Orchard."

Autumn is my favorite season, with the changing leaves, the cooler weather, the fall harvest, and Halloween. Oh, Halloween – a celebration of imagination and as much candy as you can mooch off the neighbors. A perfect chance to be someone else for a night and engage with the not-so-scary monsters of the world before you have to face the ones in the real world. So of course, I’ve looked forward to celebrating Hallowern with Sprout. And you can’t have a good Halloween without a high quality pumpkin. So off we went to the local orchard to pick a pumpkin and attend their fall children’s festival.

All was going well – even leaving earlier than anticipated – until we got about a mile away from the parking lot. Than our journey slowed down as we got in a massive line of cars that by my estimate consisted of about half of the families with small children in the Greater Washington Region.

When we finally arrived, we were greeted with a true wonderland of Halloween and fall activities. Pleasantly well-behaved goats nuzzled children’s hands looking for treats, although one did nip Sprout’s shirt. Tiny pigs bounced and tumbled all over their pen, wrestling each other. Water pumps and little aqueducts allowed children to race rubber duckies. A multi-story hay maze had children running in circles and jumping down from above like acrobats. A corn pit – a giant sandbox filled with raw kernels – allowed kids to dig and bury themselves in edible goods without making a mess (although I did have to shake corn out of Sprout’s clothes when I dressed him for bed). Giant slides offered a bit of a thrill based on nothing but gravity. Pumpkin cannons allowed you to shoot huge squash through the air for the sole purpose of wanton vegetable destruction. Kids pedaled around a loop on toy green John Deere tractors. Hay rides had families lined up in anticipation. A little pumpkin carriage carried kids who were old enough to go on a short ride free of their parents, all of whom seemed thrilled at the opportunity. The food stand offered caramel apples, apple donuts and apple cider. All of it screamed old-fashioned rural fun.

Unfortunately, one element put a major damper on our enjoyment – it was freaking cold. Earlier in the day, it had been an ideal fall day – mid-60s and sunny, with just a touch of chill. Needless to say, we weren’t prepared for the the mid-50s, gray and very windy weather that greeted us when we stepped out of the car. We were all underdressed to be outside for anything close to the 2 hours I intended to spend there.

Although we rushed, we ended up hitting most of the attractions that Sprout was old enough to participate in. The chaos and darkness of the hay maze left him a little stunned, so we hustled out of there. He loved looking at the animals, especially the pigs. He settled right into the corn box, shoveling and dumping corn to his heart’s content. He gobbled up a cider donut, leaving a ring of tell-tale sugar and cinnamon around his mouth. He tried the sliced apples with caramel, but because the caramel almost immediately hardened in the cold, they were too difficult for him to eat.

But in his very toddler manner, his favorite activity was running back and forth across a ramp that connected a play house and another tiny building. He crossed back and forth more than a dozen times, grinning and laughing. The presence of other, much larger kids didn’t deter him. A couple of times, I had to guide him to the side so that other kids could get past. When older kids knocked him over in their enthusiasm and carelessness, he just got back up again. In fact, the only time he really complained was when I tried to get him down and accidentally banged his head on the wooden roof. Then, of course, he screamed like a banschee. Bad mommy.

Despite the weather, I’m glad we went. Sprout might not have known the difference, but I would have been disappointed if we didn’t celebrate the Halloween season a bit. Fall is a time of transitions and unpredictability, just like toddlerdom. Some days will be stormy and others sunny, but all are worthwhile.

3 thoughts on “An Autumn Extravaganza: Halloween at Butler’s Orchard

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